SALINE, MI – Since giving the OK to recreational marijuana, the city of Saline has experienced a rush of interest from retailers.
In fact, city offices are “inundated” with applications, according to council member Jim Dell’Orco.
Officials even decided to temporarily stop accepting new applications while smoothing out some wrinkles in the process, ultimately voting to increase the original 250-foot buffer between dispensaries to 1,000 feet.
“I think that was probably the only deficiency that existed in the original ordinance,” said Saline Mayor Brian Marl. “Our fear is that we would be oversaturated with marijuana dispensaries in the city of Saline.”
There are currently six proposed marijuana locations: the former Mickey’s Dairy Twist at 751 West Michigan Ave., Come Dancing at 465 E. Michigan Ave., Zax Auto Wash at 660 E. Michigan Ave, Octapharma Plasma at 813 W. Michigan Ave. , 7608 E. Michigan Ave near Tractor Supply Co. and Lot20A which is the business park lot next to Zippy Auto Wash.
“I knew there would be a lot of interest because the players in this business are a cash operation… They have a lot of money to play with,” Dell’Orco said.
READ MORE: Saline opens the door to recreational marijuana businesses within city limits
Way to rush the weeds
Saline first voted to allow medical marijuana in June 2021. Then in March 2022, the city council voted to allow recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
Saline decided not to put a cap on marijuana permits, but instead to limit businesses to specific zoning areas in commercial areas outside of downtown and use buffers to limit the number of retailers. This made it even more attractive for future businesses.
Shaun Mansour, attorney and owner of Rush Cannabis — one of the dispensaries that does a show for Saline — said one thing that made the town “attractive” was the lack of a cap.
“I commend Saline for creating an ordinance … that basically limits the number of locations by zoning them,” Mansour said. “There are a number of municipalities that do a ranking system or a points system and that almost always results in lawsuits because it’s arbitrary.”
Dell’Orco said there were several different reasons behind allowing recreational vendors within the city, other than giving voters what they want and generating tax revenue.
One of the important reasons for Dell’Orco included keeping control over how marijuana is regulated within the city rather than giving others a chance to control it.
“Basically, the people who want to set up these businesses with their lobby and their people would be in the driver’s seat,” he said. “If they were to get their proposals on the ballot and voters were to approve it — the city would lose a lot of control over zoning and licensing and regulation of these businesses if we didn’t choose to go before it. . “
Not only that, but Dell’Orco said the city also envisions retailers redeveloping vacant properties or older buildings that could use renovations — however, some applicants have indicated that’s not necessarily the case.
“To some extent that has happened, but what we’re finding in the application process is that they either want to buy completely vacant land and build from the ground up, or they want to buy existing businesses,” Dell’Orco said.
Mickey’s Dairy Twist
One major place that highlighted this was Mickey’s Dairy Twist. There was a community backlash when residents learned the beloved local ice cream shop was about to become the town’s first dispensary.
Rush Cannabis is expected to fill the former Saline Ice Cream Shop location following final site plan approval.
Mansour said he’s seen dispensaries redevelop old buildings that other retailers wouldn’t think to touch. He said Mickey’s Dairy Twist is an example of a building that could use a transformation.
The dispensary has another location in Hazel Park that opened in April. Mansour said Rush Cannabis aims to open its salty location by Thanksgiving and be the first dispensary in town.
READ MORE: No more ice cream at Mickey’s Dairy Twist, but a marijuana shop is planned for the Saline base
The future of marijuana in Saline
Saline City Council member Kevin Camero-Sulak is not surprised by the number of applications the city is receiving.
“We seem to have an abundance of applications … but that doesn’t mean they’re all going to be approved or that there are places they can rent or build,” he said.
Despite the number of applications, Marl isn’t worried that the city will be flooded with marijuana or that all the dispensaries will last. He predicts two to three — maybe four — ambulances will end up inside the city.
“I think in this particular situation, the market will eventually correct if, and if is the key word, we become oversaturated with dispensaries in Saline,” he said.
As marijuana continues to thrive in Saline, Marl looks to surrounding areas like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and realizes that recreational marijuana sellers can work. He encourages city residents to reach out with questions and concerns.
“Just look around in Washtenaw County,” he said. “We have countless examples of good, attractive, sustainable communities that have carried these types of industries and it has not … diminished the quality of life of their particular communities.”
READ MORE ON THIS SUBJECT: Outrage over dispensary near daycare prompts pause in Saline’s marijuana permit
Aiming to avoid a dispensary ‘on our every corner’, Saline changes marijuana rules
Saline has laid out the framework for the city’s medical marijuana businesses
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